Android's voice capabilities have always impressed me, giving me the ability to speak to my phone instead of spending time typing. Raising the bar a bit, Google introduced us tonight to live speech-to-text, making message dictation faster and more streamlined than ever.
Android's new speech-to-text functionality happens completely live, as we saw in tonight's demo. As soon as you start talking, your phone begins typing. It will even wait for you if you take a pause, and add emoticons and punctuation per your request.
One of the most useful features of Android, in my opinion, is spell check. When attempting to convey information quickly, it's easy to make mistakes, and it's nice to have a device that catches them for you.
With Ice Cream Sandwich, users can expect a revamped keyboard, inline spell check capabilities, and improved copy/paste functionality.
The new keyboard doesn't look too different from the Gingerbread keyboard, save for its new color scheme and speech-to-text button.
If you find PIN codes or gesture patterns too predictable to keep your phone secure, Ice Cream Sandwich has the ultimate solution: face unlock.
Face unlock utilizes your phone's front-facing camera to "recognize" your face. If anyone else looks into the camera, they will be denied access. Simple as that. Not only is this a nice option to have for everyday use, but I could imagine it being integrated into mobile security apps as well, ensuring that no one but you could get into your phone and see potentially sensitive data.
Engadget managed to get some face time with Google's Gabe Cohen and he has confirmed that Ice Cream Sandwich will definitely be coming to the Nexus S. According to Engadget, both he and Matias Duarte are of the opinion that most Gingerbread devices (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy SII) will receive the upgrade.
They said that Google is "currently in the process for releasing Ice Cream Sandwich for Nexus S" and that in theory it "should work for any 2.3 device."
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on when ICS would be coming to the Android 2.3 devices and there is also no clear plan on whether ICS will ever come to older devices such as the Nexus One.
While tonight's event positively overloaded us with details about Ice Cream Sandwich, there were some features that didn't make the cut - Android engineer Dan Morrill has spilled the details on even more awesome features we can expect from the latest version of Android, posting a brief message about them on Google+. Unfortunately we don't have screen shots of these features, but we can discuss what information we do have, feature-by-feature.
A concern that's been on the tip of the Android community's tongue lately is hardware acceleration. It's something we've been waiting for for a while now, and it looks like Ice Cream Sandwich will finally deliver.
Hardware acceleration allows for a buttery smooth user experience, better graphic performance, and better responsiveness within apps. The sheer volume of improvements coming in Ice Cream Sandwich is astonishing, and I have a feeling we haven't heard about all that ICS has to offer yet.
Can't get enough of the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich? P3droid has released a dump of the Galaxy Nexus' system apps. Most apps from the dump are only going to work on ICS devices, but you can probably load most of them up in the ICS Android emulator right now. On that note, hopefully developers can pick the apps apart and get some Ice Cream Sandwich crumbs working on current devices.
Some of the most impressive features unveiled at tonight's Ice Cream Sandwich Announcement surrounded the home screen and multitasking. This time around, Google has packed an absurd amount of awesomeness into Android, and while the home screen is just the beginning, there's a lot going on that's worth discussing.
First up, we have resizable widgets - a feature many users adore from Honeycomb. Finally, users can resize widgets using Android's default launcher, making the possibilities for well-designed home screens endless.
Adding to the heap of shiny new features brought to us in Ice Cream Sandwich, we've got a new lock screen, and of course the fabled virtual button bar.
The redesigned lock screen allows for simple unlocking, or unlocking to the camera app instantly (which, by the way, has zero shutter lag). That's not all it has to offer, though. Users can now swipe down the notification bar to get a peek at what's happening without unlocking their phone.
Anticipating the fact that some folks prefer information presented to them visually, Google just dropped the first official promo video for the new Galaxy Nexus, powered by Ice Cream Sandwich. Tron-style racing and a rundown of new ICS features are practically begging you to click that Play button below:
In the words of the top YouTube comment: "Shut up and take my money, Google!"